For the longest time I went to church. I remember going as a little girl, walking across the fields for services, the smell of polish and dust when we were seated and staring up at the man in the pulpit. I remember Sunday School, the plaster cast figures in the nativity scene, the blue robes when I played Mary one Christmas and the stone humps of graves in the churchyard. As a teenager I grew more evangelical, I read my Bible everyday, I became involved in helping at services and a regular attendee at my school’s Christian Union. I wanted to be a nun when I was older, to live a life of devoted service, be a bride of Christ.
Instead I married young, it’s important in some kinds of Christian culture where sex outside of marriage is frowned on. I was a young mum as a result, before I’d worked, or traveled or lived some dreams. It was my choice and I believed the best one at the time. I continued going to church, I began working with a spiritual director, explored vocations to ministry, trained in my church to be a lay minister, ran Sunday School, met parents before their children were baptised, led worship, preached. I attended spirituality days and retreats. I wanted to be a priest, to serve God with my whole life. Life swirled around me, children grew, started school. I began training as a teacher. I planned to be a self supporting priest so I needed some way to earn a living.
Then came the unexpected. Plot twist! I began experiencing strange symptoms at the end of my induction year as a teacher. The doctors identified a minor stroke. I was thirty five. It took about six months to recover, but in that time something shifted. I began asking questions about why I was here. I came to realise that I didn’t want to sacrifice my life to the church, that I wanted to live free. I began to seek ways to balance life and work. That took a long time! The habits learned as a teenager took almost a decade to break.
After that marriage ended I found my faith less convincing. The promises that God would see me through, that if I was a good girl I would be rewarded, felt hollow. I tried to find my way back, to re-engage with church and that way of believing. It was in itself like the end of relationship, years of giving it my best, persevering, but the soul had gone out of it.
For some years I had been aware of a different energy, pulsing like a heart beat underneath daily rhythms. I had been noticing the seasons, the phases of the moon. I had been hearing echoes of words I didn’t remember learning. I felt something calling which I couldn’t name. At first I felt guilty. My years of Christian heritage had warned me against the dangers of the pagan path, the unruly chaos that lay outside the church…
One Sunday, while our priest was away, I was leading the service. There was a seismic shift in my soul as I read the familiar words from the opening of the service. Where were the women? Where in my church, my faith, my beliefs was the feminine? I felt cut off, disconnected, dispossessed. I began to search out a different path. I left my ministry role. I joined virtual circles to explore the wheel of the year. I began to follow the moon’s cycles with intent. I find myself on the edge of an adventure – stepping out on a pathway to places I didn’t expect. I am new made, fresh faced, uncertain. Yet there is also the sense that I have been here before, something almost remembered, at the edge of consciousness.